Poll says Canadians think Regina is safer than Saskatoon; crime rate suggests reverse

Canadians consider Regina to be safer than Saskatoon despite the Queen City having a higher crime rate, according the results of a new Mainstreet survey released Wednesday morning.

Poll surveyed Canadians on safety of 15 cities

Is Regina safer than Saskatoon? A Mainstreet Research poll suggests the public thinks it is, despite the Queen City having a higher crime rate. (CBC)

Canadians consider Regina to be safer than Saskatoon despite the Queen City having a higher crime rate, according to the results of a new Mainstreet Research survey released Wednesday morning. 

Regina ranked ninth out of 15 major Canadian cities included in the poll, which surveyed a random stratified sample of 2,050 Canadians and has a margin of error of +/- 2.16 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey looked at perceptions of safety following the release of Statistics Canada crime data, which identified Regina and Saskatoon as the two cities with the first and second highest crime rates in Canada respectively.

Saskatoon ranked 12th in the list of 15 cities, putting it higher in the safety rankings than Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Safety rankings

Perception of safety; net score, 2017 (Safe and Unsafe Cities: Mainstreet Research)

Crimes rates up in both cities

The second survey of its kind, it also compared perceptions in 2017 to those from last year. Regina, whose crime rate increased 11 per cent from 2015-2016, dropped three places from its rank as sixth safest in last year's survey.

According to the survey results, 50 per cent of Canadians consider Regina to be safe, and 33 per cent think it is unsafe. Another 17 per cent are not sure.

Saskatoon's crime rate also increased by six per cent but its ranking as the 12th safest stayed the same.

The survey indicates 47 per cent of Canadians think Saskatoon is safe, 41 per cent think it is unsafe and 12 per cent are not sure.

Regarding Ottawa, the city which was ranked the safest, 74 per cent think it is safe, 14 per cent consider it unsafe and 12 per cent are not sure.

Crime rates

Numbers from Statistics Canada show Regina had a higher crime rate than Saskatoon in 2016. (Safe and Unsafe Cities poll/Mainstreet Research )

Location of legislature a factor?

The survey indicated Saskatchewan residents were more likely than the rest of the country to say Saskatoon was safe, while perceptions of Regina's safety within Saskatchewan were on par with the rest of Canada.

It also noted a trend in the perception of safety in cities that are home to the provincial legislature compared with other urban centres within that province.

"Victoria, Edmonton, Regina and Quebec City all have higher perceived safety when compared to Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon and Montreal respectively," wrote Mainstreet Research president Quito Maggi of the results.

"In Ontario where the nation's capital continues to have higher perceived safety than Toronto, the pattern does continue but in this case, the city with the House of Commons outperforms the city with Queen's Park."

Perception versus reality

Regina and Saskatoon police chiefs have weighed in on the results of the poll, saying perception can differ from reality.

Since the poll surveyed citizens across Canada, Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill says that people could perceive a city is dangerous without having been to the city. 

"Saskatoon is a safe city. Regina is a very safe city. Most of our crime is involved with people in the drug world. That's what's driving a lot of our crime," said Weighill. 

"The average citizen or average tourist that's coming into Saskatoon is not going to run into any problems."

Weighill said that statistics can create a skewed perception, and people in other cities can see reports of crime statistics in cities like Regina and Saskatoon and base their perception of danger on that alone. 

A breakdown of total criminal offences in Regina by neighbourhood. Regina Police Chief Evan Bray says that despite high crime rates, he thinks Regina is a safe city.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said, however, that perception is a big part of reality.

He said they conduct their own perception surveys in the city every two years to grasp what people think of safety and the police service. 

"We have high crime rates, but I also like to think that this is a safe city," Bray said. 

"We talk a lot about the fact that our crime rate and our [crime severity index] is driven by property crime, and we know there are things we can do to protect ourselves from property crime victimization."

Bray says in order to improve services, he focuses on police visibility and positive interactions with the community, education, communication, holding offenders accountable, community involvement, and working to tackle the root causes of crime like mental health and addiction problems.